If you have been diligently working on an inbound marketing strategy for your business, and you have attended to all the SEO best practices for your website, tackling local search probably seems like overkill at this point. Surely all the work you have put in so far will count towards local search, right? Unless you are a national business that is not trying to draw customers into a local storefront, the answer is no; you still need to put in a bit of effort to make sure your community can easily find you.
What is Local Search
About half of all Google searches are people looking for local products and services. For example, a homeowner looking for a nearby painting service, a driver looking for a body shop, or a business owner looking for a printing shop are all local searches. Looking at people who use a mobile device, that number jumps up to 78 percent of searches having local intent. When you consider that Google recently announced that more people are using mobile devices for searching than desktop computers, that number seems even bigger.
Search engines like Google have location data built into their algorithms, so it is no longer necessary for a user to put in a city, zip code, or other identifiers for local results to be returned. That means that someone looking for a nearby pizza joint can simply type in "pizza" instead of "pizza Chicago northside" to find somewhere nearby to grab a slice.
Why This Matters
Let's state the obvious: if you are operating a business that draws its customers from the surrounding area, you will want your name to come up when customers are looking for local solutions. What may be less obvious is that 80 percent of local searches performed on a mobile phone end up converting, and three-fourths of those conversions brought a customer into a storefront. On the other hand, if you are not taking the extra steps to be sure your business is optimized online for local search, you have no chance of competing for customers on the go.
Optimizing for Local Search
Just like any SEO strategy, optimizing for local traffic can be as simple or as complex as your resources allow. No matter how much you can dedicate to local search, there are a few things that every business should be doing:
If you want to be associated with a particular city or region, be sure you are using those words throughout your content, page titles, URLs, and headings. Be careful when you are dropping localities into your content, however, as it can be painfully obvious when you are trying to do it only for SEO, and this can be a turn-off for customers that are trying to learn about your business.
Google My Business
Give Google everything it needs to know about your business by completing a Google My Business profile. You'll have the opportunity to add photos and location information and get seamless integration with your Google Analytics and AdWords accounts.
In the past, directories played a far more important role than they do now. However, it is still important to make sure your business is registered with the big players like Bing and Yahoo, and that you have claimed your business on review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor.
Local Link Building
If you want search engines to find you relevant for a particular location, other local businesses should, too. The more incoming links you can get from other quality sites in your area, the better your local profile will be.
Stay Local, Stay Relevant
For businesses that rely on the local community for building a customer base, it is almost impossible to compete for online attention without local search. As more people use their mobile devices to search for services while they are on the go, local search will become increasingly important. If you want to stay on top of the competition, make sure you're also staying on top of local search.